A new study shows student suspensions reduced through teacher empathy, even when only one teacher changes behavior.
The study was led by Psychologist Jason Okonofua. He attended public schools until tenth grade, when he entered a private prep school. At his new school, he noticed how differently teachers responded to students. He was encouraged to express his opinions and speak out if anything was wrong. At his old school, such behavior would have landed him in trouble.
“They were totally different approaches,” he says.
Okonofua is currently a psychologist at Stanford University. He became curious about the effect of student-teacher relationships on student success. He says that many factors are involved in the likelihood of repeated suspensions, but a big predictor is whether or not students have been suspended before. A possible reason is that the first suspension triggers a loss of trust and respect.